Sweat

I remember the first time I experienced sweat. I phrase it as an experience because, at the time, that what it was. I was a little boy and I was in the front yard of my mother’s house with my brothers and sisters. I have no recollection of what we were doing, only that we were running between our yard and the neighbors, Bill and Sylvia’s, yard. There was a lot of laughing and happy screaming. Sylvia was a talkative woman and it was easy for her to get started talking and for the other person to have to escape mid-conversation, assuming you knew it was mid-conversation. Once, my brother convinced me to ride my bike with him down the steep part of the driveway. As he started off I said out loud, “I’m going to regret this.” I did. Somewhere at the bottom of the hill I hit an exposed brick and went flying over the handlebars of my bike. I landed and was fine until the bike landed on my head, splitting it right on the crown. My brother walked me up our driveway, blood streaming down my face and at the top I saw my Mom talking to Sylvia. She saw me and the look of horror that spread across her face is one that I am sure millions of mothers around the world have expressed. Sylvia, though she seemed to acknowledge that whatever had happened to me was horrible, kept on talking. My mom of course broke from this one sided conversation to take her child to the hospital, 10 stiches, and if I’m not mistaken, McDonald’s. I liked Sylvia and Bill, their children were artists and sometime would babysit for us, and we were allowed to play in their backyard whenever we wanted. They had a very old outdoor stone grill that stood at least 10 feet tall. Often we would climb it, making up stories about mountains, being chased and having to make it to the top before a beast caught us, or like my son, narrowly escaping lava with it hot on our heels.
                It was on a pleasant 80 degree day running between Sylvia and Bill’s yard and my own that I discovered my skin had started to cry. I thought it was the strangest thing. All of this water was pouring down my face, but I didn’t feel sad and I couldn’t quite figure out where it was coming from. We were having so much fun that I knew I must not be sad. So I deduced that it must be some other phenomenon that I should alert my parents to. I approached my mother and she explained what was happening to me. That I had tiny holes called pores in my skin that allowed for a kind of water to flow out. That it was a cooling system and a sort of waste management. I think my response was something like, “I’m peeing through my skin? Cool!” That day always lingers in my mind as a day when I was in awe and wonder of the universe. When I was totally innocent and thought the world was too. 
                Like most Americans I have a hard time with 9/11. It is a day that has caused so much pain and so much anguish. Not just because of that terrible act but because of actions taken in its name; two wars, countless deaths, and a world culture that was ripped to shreds. The things I remember about that day no longer fixate me as they once did. I mean I still remember where I was and my fear at watching it all transpire but I can no longer feel the horror I felt then. It is becoming a dimmer sort of memory but at the same time, no less vivid. Much like that day in the front yard when I was just a boy. It is there but I remember it as a series of images and feelings, it is no longer a whole thing to me. I suppose that is any event, the moment it happens we begin to forget. Maybe that is why we rally as a culture to remember, because together we have a clearer picture of the past. Now I only feel a sense of hope. We are all connected in such an amazing way. All of us glued to the same thing. I believe in the experiment we live in, this country, however imperfect it may be. I think it really is one of the greatest places to live and I can still get lost in the magic of what we are still trying to build. It is all of our jobs to talk about the things that happen in this country and how it affects the rest of the world, no matter how asinine the opinion, I believe everyone is allowed to have one. You know the old adage about assholes. Cable news proves that true every second. We are the reason this place will fail or succeed and there are a lot of younger people coming into society everyday who need to be part of that system. Who need to weigh in on going back to those words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” We need to take those words to heart and remember what they mean, not just to those who are on rafts trying to find a new life, those who are dying so their children can live, or those whose children die while taking a chance but in our own country. Post 9/11 we had the chance to heal and to take the world with us. We missed that opportunity and have long forgotten those words. Not just when it comes to those with refugee status or just looking for a new home but within our own country. We need to reexamine what we are and what those words really mean now.   
I watched my son and his best friend playing in the backyard the other day. They ran around as I sat on the porch and Max, my son, ran up to me wiping his eyes. There was sweat pouring down his face and he didn’t have a care in the world. It reminded me of that day so long ago when I knew nothing. He asked me if I would be the tickle monster, to which I said of course. I proceed to chase both of them around the yard, sometimes tickling, sometimes letting them run, and watching them with a kind of melancholy.  Hoping they will have this as long as they can, and that their tears are only sweat stinging their eyes as they continue the good work, making this place better for us all.                                      

  

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